Aqua Tower

Aqua Tower
  1. About the Aqua Tower in Chicago
    1. Prizes & Awards
  2. Architect and team
  3. Architectural style
  4. Spaces and uses
  5. Structure and materials

The Aqua Tower is a Contemporary skyscraper designed by Studio Gang Architects, with Jeanne Gang and Mark Schendel as lead architect,, in association with Loewenberg Architects, and built between 2006 and 2009, for a reported $350 million dollars, in Chicago, IL.

Its precise street address is 225 N. Columbus Drive, Chicago, IL. You can also find it on the map here.

The Aqua Tower has received multiple architecture awards for its architectural design since . The following is a list of such prizes and awards:

  • Great Places, AIA Illinois. in 2018
  • Honor Award, Distinguished Building, AIA Chicago. in 2010
  • Skyscraper of the Year, Emporis. in 2009
  • Annual Design Review Honorable Mention, Architect Magazine. in 2009
  • “Proggy” Award, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in 2009
  • American Architecture Award, Chicago Athenaeum in 2008

The incredible shape of the building is not only to emphasize the relationship that this one has with its surrounding water bodies, but also, its kilter cantilevered terraces are a big help to the stability of the building. Thanks to the irregular shape of the balconies, the wind isn't able to find a surface to push on.

Building's timeline

Design begins
Construction begins
Construction completed
years ago

Architect and team

Studio Gang Architects, with Jeanne Gang and Mark Schendel as the lead architect, was the architecture firm in charge of the architectural design, in association with Loewenberg Architects.

Studio Gang Architects was in charge of the architectural design, however, architecture is a complex discipline involving many professionals from different fields, without whom this building would have not been possible. We will surely be leaving out a lot of names here, but here is a list of the people we do know also played their part in making the Aqua Tower a reality:

  • Magnusson Klemencic Associates in charge of Structural Engineering
  • McHugh Construction as the Main Contractor
  • Horvath Reich Cdc in charge of Facade Consultancy
  • Magellan Development Group as the Main Developer
  • Wolff Landscape Architecture in charge of Landscape Architecture

Architectural Style

The Aqua Tower can be categorized as a Contemporary building.

Contemporary style architecture builds on top of the principles of Modernism and Postmodernism, but incorporates other variables which might not have been that important in the past, but certainly are today, such as technology, sustainability, inclusivity, and others.

From a historical point of view, it is hard to categorize things from a not-so-distant time, and therefore we choose to categorize most buildings built after the year 2000 as "Contemporary". It is possible that as time goes by and we, as a society, gain perspective on the things happening today, we'll be able to look back and recategorize all these buildings into more concrete subsections, some of which might not even exist today.

That being said, by today's standards the Aqua Tower could probably be clasified as a ["eco"] building. Only time will tell if ["eco"] will grow and stick onto the history books, or if perhaps it will become a substyle of a larger style. Only time will tell. Until then, saying that the Aqua Tower is a Contemporary Aqua Tower building, is the best we can do.

Spaces & Uses

The Aqua Tower reaches an architectural height of 859ft (261.8m), with the last accesible floor being 822ft (250.6m) off the gorund. It has a total of 88 floors, 82 above ground and 6 basements, served by 24 elevators

The building sits on a 1,980,558 sqf (184,000m2) lot.It has a built-up area of 1,980,558 sqf (184,000m2) offering 1,900,001 sqf (176,516m2) of usable space.

If you want to get a nice view of Chicago the Aqua Tower offers an observatory deck.

In regards to parking space, the building has a total of 1557 spots available, which roughly equals 19 spots per floor (above ground), or one parking spot per every 1,216 sqf (113m2) of usable space.

Ever since opening its doors to the public in 2009, the Aqua Tower has been a mixed use building. It incorporates 4 main uses, which are commercial, residential, hotel, and parking spaces.

859ft (261.8m)
822ft (250.6m)
6 basements

Materials & Structure

The Aqua Tower uses a framed tube-in-tube structure , with reinforced concrete columns and beams.

A framed tube-in-tube structure uses a central core, known as inner tube, which usually holds stairs, lifts and installations, and a perimeter of columns around it, which form the exterior tube. The interior tube is tipically more massive (often made of reinforced concrete), and the exterior tube is "lighter" (made of steel or concrete columns). Both tubes are conencted via horizontal elements which make up the floors and also transmit any horizontal froces from the facade to the core.

It is uncommon for a framed tube-in-tube structure type building to have a non-load-bearing facade, as the exterior "tube" is usually integrated into the facade.

At its core, the building maintains a standard, modern box structure, yet it is far from conventional. Each balcony, integral to the facade's aesthetic, is meticulously integrated into a greater floor slab design. Contractors relied on GPS coordinates to ensure the precise pouring of each of the 82 unique balcony designs, contributing to the tower's distinctive appearance. Despite its visually striking elements, Aqua's plans reveal a rational structure, echoing the legacy of Mies Van Der Rohe's architectural principles in the city

From an aesthetic point of view, the facade features a nautical theme, with wavy balconies and blue-green tinted windows. The tower's distinctive form is achieved by varying floor slabs based on views, sunlight, and use.

Strategically sculpted slabs offer outdoor terraces with views of Chicago landmarks. Borrowing from terrestrial topography, the tower resembles a vertical landscape of hills, valleys, and pools. Its curving balconies and reflective glass create the impression of cascading water.